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Hip Hop Classes in Singapore: 5 Tips for Beginners

Think you are ready to start your hip hop dance class in Singapore?

So you have taken the big, brave step and signed up for a hip hop class in a dance studio in Singapore.  You've got the clothes, you're feeling the groove, and you're ready to start jamming with those hip-hoppers like what you've seen on the big screen.  You step into the hip hop class, all giddy with nervous excitement, ready to do ya thang. 

And the next thing you know, you spend the next hour scrambling around the hip hop class, tripping over your feet, flinging your hands wildly in the air, generally feeling like a chimpanzee with 4 legs and not at all cool.  Hip hop dance class felt way harder than it looked in TV and you sweat buckets thinking of how you have to endure the whole series of dance lessons and remember all the steps and sequences that everyone seems to be able to do effortlessly.

If you are going through this right now (or have been there before *shiver*), here are some tips and tricks that I have picked up over the years, watching and teaching my students learn in their hip hop class in our Singapore studio.


#1. Go early and get a good spot where you can see properly in your hip hop class.

Being early in dance class has a few advantages.  You can pick a good spot where you can see your hip hop teacher clearly (preferably head to toe) and have a good spot in the mirror.  Beginner dancers are generally scared to stand right in front, behind the instructor but it truly is the best place you can see and hear in your hip hop dance class.  If standing right in front is not possible, try to find a spot where you can see the whole body clearly.  Try to find other more experienced hip hop dancers that you can imitate in class throughout the lesson too.

Arriving early for your hip hop class also allows you to mentally and physically warm up before the class, putting you in the right frame of mind to learn.  You can also take the time to run through any hip hop moves that the teacher has taught in the previous dance class, so that you are on top of it when your teacher decides to run through the same sequence later.  Getting to class late can make you flustered and distracted, and it can affect the way you learn and pick up dance moves in your hip hop class.


#2. Look at the whole body when you learn, not just the feet or the hands.

I have been teaching hip hop classes in Singapore for more than 10 years and I have realized 1 peculiar thing about the learning process.  I see many of my Hip Hop (and other dance) students who struggle with coordination issues with their eyes cast downwards, staring at my feet, trying to get the steps right and while doing so, they tend to loose their balance frequently. 

I also see other students pick up the steps quicker by looking at me through the mirror or at my back and they seem to have less issues with balance, weight transfer and mastering their steps.  I have taught this simple but often overlooked skill for learning hip hop dance steps and found that students who were struggling previously learned faster.

I found out that hip hop students who are very focused on a specific part of the body when they are trying to learn the dance steps tend to struggle in learning.  Contrary to what we may think, focusing on the details too much can cause dancers to loose sight of how the dance steps flow from one move to another, and how the body is supposed to move together with the feet through the motion.  It is better to look at the whole body while learning to dance, as you will subconsciously pick up nuances in the body movements that we use to execute hip hop dance moves that we love so much. 

From looking at the whole, we can then zoom into the details, but always keep in mind that we are dancing with the whole body, not just the feet or the hands, and so they should always flow from one step to the next.


#3. Revise your hip hop dance steps before and during class

When a hip hop choreography is taught in class, teachers usually teach them in parts or sequences.  Try to stay ahead of the class by mentally or physically linking the steps together as your teachers runs through them.  For example, I will mark through the steps as he counts in 5, 6, 7, 8 into the new sequence of hip hop steps.  This way, I am conditioning my body to link the steps together and will be better prepared to execute the whole hip hop dance routine when we do so in the class. 

I also take advantage of breaks in teaching to run through the routine (what I can remember of it).  This way I am less stressed and more prepared when we actually do the full dance sequence to the music.


#4. Train and get strong fundamentals to make learning hip hop choreography fun and enjoyable.

Pay careful attention and focus on building strong fundamentals for hip hop dance.  Take the time (and pains) to practice those body isolations, grooves, basic footwork and techniques that are common moves used frequently in hip hop dance classes in Singapore.  These are the building blocks in the dance, and will occur in most dance lessons you take in Singapore and around the world. 
They are the 'do, re, mi' of the hip hop dance, and by learning them well, you don't have to struggle to execute theses basic steps and can focus on remembering the dance routine rather then trying to get your body to move in the right way.  There are certain basic technique classes that hip hop dance schools offer to help their students to practice and master the techniques.  Try them out as a complimentary class to the one that you are already doing, you'll find it beneficial.


#5. Practice, practice, practice!

Lastly, to enjoy your hip hop dance classes fully, try to find the time to practice the dance steps.  This can be done mentally as well as physically.  I find that putting in a 5 - 10 min session to just run through the moves in the middle of the week helps me to remember those tricky steps we learn in our hip hop dance class.  I also mentally run through my steps while waiting for the bus or MRT while commuting in Singapore.  A 5 min run though of the steps before class helps greatly too, as mentioned previously.


These tips given are little tricks that I have been using my whole dance life, regardless of whether I'm learning hip hop, ballet, salsa, jazz or any kind of dance in Singapore and overseas.  I have also noticed that students who pick up steps fast and whom others assume have a 'natural affinity' for dancing consciously or subconsciously apply these methods to help them gain an upper hand in their dance classes.  Try it and let me know if it helps!


- Starlinn Choo, May 2016

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